A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

A Conversation with Author Julianna Baggott of Newly-Released Book “Burn”

June 21, 2014
I had the opportunity to sit with Julianna Baggott, the author of the popular books Pure and Fuse and newly-released book, Burn, for a Q&A . Here are some highlights from that session.
1. Do you write for others because you just have to write or for yourself only?
I write for others. But sometimes that other, in the past, has been a younger version of myself. Mostly, though, I want to communicate. I want to reach others. Sometimes I adore the reader too much.
2. While writing, what kind of relationship do you often form with your own writing self – a painful or a joyful one?
 I exist less when I write. My sense of self disappears — mercifully. It’s why I can write when my life is hard — why I need to.
3. How many days do you actually write and how rigid you are about that schedule?
I write everyday, except when I’m traveling — but then I can jot. I’m not rigid in my scheduling, but I’m a person of habit. I have four kids; so much of my daily life is chaotic. I carve out writing time from that chaos.
4. How do you recognize if you are on the wrong track?
I have to believe in my opening — that there’s something there worth pursuing — but after some obsessive work on that, I allow a blank spot in my mind for error on the first draft. I can’t know the whole. I have to compartmentalize, and in some fundamental ways, I have to be self-fooling. I look at what’s working and only see the holes the next time I go through. Sometimes I’m stunned by the blind-eye of my first draft, but it was necessary to get through.
5. Are you affected by other people’s appraisal of your work? Have you ever been hurt by them?
I went to therapy once for something really traumatic, but, while I was there, doing some kind of therapy that has to do with following a set of lights with your eyes, I asked the therapist if I could also work through this one bad review I’d never been able to process. So, yes. Sometimes praise is paralyzing, however, and sometimes criticism is a relief.
6. Do you feel you and the characters in your books have always been well understood by your readers?
Not always, but each character exists for the reader themselves. I step out of the way — as best I can — and allow them access.
7. Who is your favorite novelist of all times?
I was a huge fan of Marquez early on, but I don’t know. I shift on this all the time.
8. What are the books that have made you laugh or cry, and what is the book on your night stand that you particularly don’t want us to know about?
Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies made me cry very hard at the end. Sedaris makes me laugh so hard I can’t read him on planes. I have a stack of books to blurb on my side table.
9. Do you lose yourself in your writing? The very fact that writing is a very lonely art, do you sometimes feel lonely? 
Absolutely. It’s why I’ve taken to collaboration a few times. The solitude is one of the hardest things about the craft. 
10. What is next for Julianna, and what would be next for Julianna if the sky were the limit?
I have a novel coming out in spring called Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders. It’d be lovely if it were a huge hit or at least spoke to people in some intimate way.

 burn-julianna-baggott fuse-julianna-baggott  pure-julianna-baggott

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Julianna Baggott also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode. She has published nineteen books over the last twelve years. Film rights for her novel PURE, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and ALA Alex Award-winner, have been acquired by Fox 2000. The second book in the trilogy, FUSE, has just been released. There are over one hundred foreign editions of her novels published or forthcoming overseas.

Julianna began publishing short stories when she was twenty-two and sold her first novel while still in her twenties. After receiving her M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she published her first novel, Girl Talk, which was a national bestseller and was quickly followed by The Boston Globe bestseller The Miss America Family, and thenThe Boston Herald Book Club selection, The Madam, an historical novel based on the life of her grandmother. She co-wrote Which Brings Me to You with Steve Almond, A Best Book of 2006 (Kirkus Reveiws).

Her Bridget Asher novels include The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, The Pretend Wife, and My Husband’s Sweethearts. Asher’s novels are widely published overseas.

She has also published award-winning novels for younger readers under the pen name N.E. Bode as well as under Julianna Baggott. Her seven novels for younger readers include, most notably, The Anybodies trilogy was a People Magazine summer reading pick alongside David Sedaris and Bill Clinton, a Washington Post Book of the Week, a Girl’s Life Top Ten, a Booksense selection, and was in development at Nickelodeon/Paramount; The Slippery MapThe Ever Breath, and the prequel to Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Jason Bateman. For two years, Bode was a recurring personality on XM Sirius Radio. Julianna’s Boston Red Sox novel The Prince of Fenway Park (HarperCollins) was published in spring 2009. It is on the Sunshine State Young Readers Awards List and The Massachusetts Children’s Book Award for 2011-2012.

Baggott also has an acclaimed career as a poet, having published three collections of poetry – This Country of Mothers,Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees, and Lizzie Borden in Love. Her poems have appeared in some of the strongest literary publications in the country, including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and Best American Poetry (2001, 2011 and 2012).

Also an essayist, Baggott’s essays have appeared The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Modern Love Column, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, Glamour, Real Simple, Best Creative Nonfiction, and read on NPR’s Here and Now and All Things Considered. Her essays, stories, and poems are highly anthologized.

She is an associate professor at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts. In 2006, Baggott and her husband co-founded the nonprofit organization Kids in Need – Books in Deed, that focuses on literacy and getting free books to underprivileged children in the state of Florida. Her husband, David Scott, is also her creative and business partner. They have four children.

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